Tuesday, April 28, 2015

We Are the Network

It was my honor to be among the speakers at the Northwest Ministry Network's Annual Conference today. Here is my manuscript:

I have been asked to remind us about a great way we worked together as a Network about a year ago… a time when we ministers and churches demonstrated that we are the Network.

One way to think of life with Jesus is to think in terms of being a Disciple (a capital D, one of the 12 kind). I would have been bad at it. I’m a task-driven, agenda guy. Schedules and charts and spreadsheets and checklists are my friends. So… walking with Jesus and His Disciples could have been a pretty frustrating experience for me, since walking with Jesus seemed to be characterized by interruptions, uncertainty, obstacles, surprises, and need.

If one was going to be with Jesus, you would have to be ready for Him to respond to need.

And so it goes… if we are going to be with Jesus, we have to be ready for Him to respond to need with and through us.

We had one of those opportunities last year with the Oso Slide. I didn’t even know there was an Oso until the news reports began to stream in that Saturday morning. Sunday morning came, and all we could do was pray. Rescue efforts were still underway and the impact was only beginning to be measured.

The following Wednesday morning, as I was prepping for Sunday, it occurred to me that nobody had told me what we were doing yet. One of the great things about being part of the Assemblies of God and the Northwest Ministry Network is that we routinely get direction and resources when disaster strikes. Whether it is the Network, or Convoy of Hope, or AG World Missions… when something like this happens we don’t usually have to wonder what to do; there is an email with directions and links to resources.

So I started to track down my friends at the Network… and as I started an email I experienced one of those Holy Spirit moments. It was a question that went something like, “Are you ready to step up and help?”

I heard back pretty quickly. Network leaders had determined the best thing we could do was get cash in the hands of our churches already responding on both sides of the slide: Arlington and Darrington.

Our Network leaders had determined what we would do, but not yet how we would go about doing it.

So I asked them to deputize me. With their blessing I cleared my schedule and got to work.

It seemed like video would be handy, so I asked my friend and business partner Merlin Quiggle to help; we do some pro bono work from time to time.

We were able to line up the pastors on both sides for Thursday, Bill in Arlington in the morning and Les in Darrington in the afternoon. We captured their stories, how our church in Arlington was serving as a base of operations supporting the efforts in Oso and how our church in Darrington was really on the frontlines, not only supporting the work in Oso but dealing with Darrington’s own problems now that their only route directly west was cutoff. Both churches were doing meaningful work; it was easy to see that any support we could get into their hands would make a real difference.

By Friday morning we had:
  • A website 
  • Video ready to be downloaded 
  • Instructions, and 
  • Online and text-to-give options ready to go (thanks to Greg Stern)
By noon an email went out from the Network and we started to spread the word via social media.

I hoped we could raise $100,000 together by last year’s Annual Conference.

I know churches used the materials in a number of different ways. Some went with the program, showed the video, received an offering, and sent it to the Network Office. Others used chunks of the video, or added to it. Some didn’t use it at all, but watched it to inform their own approach. Some sent gifts directly to the churches, knocking out the middleman.

When it was all added together, we broke through that $100,000 mark in the days just before Annual Conference. Every dollar given was funneled to our churches.

I think we did a great thing together as a Network. The initiative of our leaders, the churches on the frontlines, and the members of our Network came together with Jesus to meet human need. That’s how we roll; I’m glad to be part of this expression of the Body of Christ.

Here’s the takeaway I would like us to consider today: what more can we do together? As we are walking with Jesus, let’s be on the lookout for ways that Jesus can work with and through us, together, to meet needs. We do not walk alone.

Let’s remember that we walk together… and when opportunity arises for us to serve together, let’s do that. When we can pull together as an area or region or Network, let’s meet needs together.

And let’s not wait around for direction from the Network; we are the Network. When we see opportunities to serve together we need to pull the Network in, and we need to be ready to act… to help, serve, and possibly even lead. We each have unique perspective and resources; when Networked together we are strong.

We are strong when we are bound together by relationship, and doctrine, and style, and geography… but I think we might be strongest when we are bound together by service… the Network working together with Jesus, proclaiming the Gospel and reaching out in acts of love, charity, and compassion in our communities and the world. We are the Network.

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